May 24, 2018

The Republican Governors Association has a target in Florida: Gwen Graham

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A screenshot of the Republican Governors Association website from Wednesday, May 23, 2018.

If there is a candidate for Florida Governor that the Republican Governors Association doesn't seem to like, it's Gwen Graham.

Nine of the association's latest news releases from Florida take aim at the the former Congresswoman, who is considered a front-runner but slightly behind in polls to former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

The releases, all in the month of May, have the typical headlines you'd expect from members of the opposite party, calling Graham "desperate" or "phony" or having been "caught misleading voters." 

The association, whose stated purpose is "electing and supporting Republican governors," apparently has someone surreptitiously recording the candidate. Its latest release features a video by someone secretly recording while asking Graham a question about taxes at a campaign event.

The RGA hasn't focused solely on Graham, though. The last time they did a press release that targeted another candidate was back in March, when they did a post mentioning that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is "catching fire" among Democrats. (They previously noted that Gillum is "surging" among Democrats.)

Why the focus on Graham? The RGA didn't respond to a request for comment. The current chairman of the RGA is Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for senate, was vice chairman of the organization last year.

As for Graham's camp, they're brushing it off:

"Focusing so many of their attacks on Democrat Gwen Graham, seems like 'R.G.A.' really stands for 'Republican Graham Anxiety,'" Graham campaign manager Julia Woodward said in a statement. "The Republican Governor’s Association fears 20 years of one-party rule is coming to an end in Florida, and they clearly know Gwen is the one who’s going to end the Republican lock on the governor’s office in November."

May 11, 2018

Former Florida Democratic Party chairs denounce attack ad aimed at Graham

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Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who is running for governor.

Three former leaders of the Florida Democratic Party denounced a new attack ad against Gwen Graham from a group that supports one of her rivals in the governor's race, Andrew Gillum.

"This is the type of unethical, disgusting trick we’ve come to expect from Republicans in Tallahassee," former party Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement, sent to the media by Graham's campaign. "To see Andrew Gillum embrace secret-money attacks is disappointing and disqualifies him from earning my support.

"If he is truly the progressive Democrat he claims to be, Gillum should immediately call for his secret-money allies to immediately take this ad off the air."

Smith was referring to a $782,000 ad buy by The Collective, an organization that supports black candidates running for office around the country. The largest donors to its SuperPac are George Soros and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The ad paints Graham, a former Congresswoman from Tallahassee, as not liberal enough to be governor. It's scheduled to run on network TV in West Palm Beach and in cable markets across the state starting Thursday, according to Politico.

"We must stand together and unite the Democratic Party," former Chairman Karen Thurman said in the same statement put out by the Graham campaign. "After 20 years of Republican rule in Tallahassee, there’s too much on the line for Democrats to attack each other."

Former Chairman Terrie Brady said in the statement that Democrats running for governor "should be running on their ideas for Florida's future."

"They should not be attacking other Democratic candidates," she said. "I hope that Mr. Gillum and the other contenders will take a positive approach going forward."

Gillum's communications director on Thursday brushed off the criticism.

"In this race no candidate will be able to run from their voting record, but if we had a choice in this ad, we'd want Mayor Gillum's progressive record to be the focus," Geoff Burgan said. "The Graham campaign seems to be uncomfortable with her own voting record."

May 10, 2018

Gwen Graham fires back at negative ad by group that supports Andrew Gillum

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Democratic candidates for governor of Florida, clockwise from upper left: Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Chris King.

Gwen Graham's campaign is fighting back against a negative ad hitting Florida airwaves that's sponsored by a super PAC that supports opponent Andrew Gillum.

“I am disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat,” Graham said in response to the ad.

The ad was paid for by The Collective, a PAC that supports black candidates. It will air in West Pam Beach and in cable markets throughout the state, according to Politico.

According to Politico, the PAC is spending $782,000 for the 30-second spot. But the PAC's Federal Elections Commission reports show it's only taken in $167,000

The spot criticizes Graham, a former Congresswoman from Tallahassee, for not being liberal enough to be governor.

"Gwen Graham says she is the progressive Democrat for governor," the ad says. "But while in Congress she voted against President Obama 52 percent of the time. Graham trashed Obamacare. Voted with the big banks. And she voted for the Keystone XL pipeline - twice. Graham stood with Republican leaders over President Obama and Florida Democrats. Gwen Graham is not the progressive she claims to be."

That's been a consistent theme for Gillum, who is trailing in the polls but hopes to gain traction among the four Democratic candidates for governor by appearing the most liberal. 

The Graham campaign shot back by noting that Gillum denounced "dark money flowing into Florida" in a February tweet.

The Gillum camp responded to the ad by doubling down on their criticism:

"In this race no candidate will be able to run from their voting record, but if we had a choice in this ad, we’d want Mayor Gillum’s progressive record to be the focus," communications director Geoff Burgan said. "The Graham campaign seems to be uncomfortable with her own voting record."

Gwen Graham boasts $1 million fundraising haul in governor's race

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Gwen Graham raised more than $1 million in April toward her campaign for governor, marking the best month yet for one of the Democratic front-runners.

She now has $4.7 million cash on hand, according to her campaign, and has raised $7.5 million overall.

Her campaign also claims it's raising money from more grassroots supporters than any over her three opponents, with more than 18,500 total donors.

“This campaign is fueled by Floridians and grassroots supporters who are passionate about sharing Gwen’s positive message and dreams for Florida. Democrats are tired of dirty campaigns and outside secret-money groups interfering in elections,” Campaign Manager Julia Woodward said in a statement.

May 08, 2018

Gwen Graham to Pam Bondi: "stop stalling" and sue the drug companies

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Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham stands with supporters for a photo after she announced that she is running for governor at a park in Miami Gardens in 2017.

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham called on Attorney General Pam Bondi to "stop stalling" and sue the drug companies that many believe are responsible for creating the nation's opioid crisis.

"Florida families are tired of waiting," Graham, an attorney, said in a statement. "If Pam Bondi, the attorney general and a lawyer, can’t find an attorney to file a lawsuit, she can call me directly and I’ll help guide her through the process."

Bondi has spent months searching for a lawyer to take the case, while hundreds of other states, cities and counties - some in Florida - have already filed lawsuits.

The suits generally target the makers of powerful prescription drugs and the companies that distributed them, arguing that the companies either turned a blind eye to or knowingly sold highly addictive opioids.

Bondi has said that Florida will be filing a separate lawsuit and won't be joining a massive multi-state action taking shape in a federal court in Ohio.

Graham first called on Bondi to sue back in September. State Democratic lawmakers have also urged the attorney general to take action.

"For years, Attorney General Bondi looked the other way as powerful drug companies profited off abusive practices and fueling the opioid addictions of countless Floridians," Graham said. "Finally, after thousands of Floridians have died, Bondi says she'll sue — but words are meaningless without action."

She said that as governor, "I will hold the drug companies accountable and use all the powers of the office to address the opioid epidemic."

Bondi's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

May 07, 2018

Gwen Graham opens campaign headquarters in Orlando

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Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham stands with supporters for a photo after she announced that she is running for governor at a park in Miami Gardens in 2017.

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham opened up her campaign headquarters in Orlando on Saturday.

"I’m so excited to officially be a resident of Orlando," Graham said. "Central Florida is at the heart of our 67-county strategy."

Graham, who has lived in Tallahassee for the last three decades, is the second Democratic candidate for governor to open up shop in Orlando. The headquarters for Chris King, who lives in nearby Winter Park, are just up the street.

But why move to Orlando?

For one, the location makes geographic sense. Tallahassee is so far away from the state's major cities that some lawmakers want to move the state's capital to Orlando.

But it's also at the heart of the Interstate 4 corridor, the stretch of swing voters between St. Petersburg and Daytona Beach that would be critical for winning a general election.

The Times' Adam C. Smith explained the area's importance this way in this great 2016 piece:

"The basic political math for winning statewide races has been consistent for decades: Republicans rack up votes in conservative north and Southwest Florida; Democrats clean up in the population centers of South Florida; and the two sides battle it out in the high-growth areas along I-4."

Graham, a former congresswoman and daughter of former governor and Senator Bob Graham, is considered one of the frontrunners on the Democratic side.

Her other two primary opponents have decided to set up shop closer to home.

Andrew Gillum's headquarters are in Tallahassee, where he's mayor. And Democrat Philip Levine's base is in Miami Beach, where he was mayor until last year.

May 02, 2018

Police union endorses Gwen Graham, Adam Putnam in governor's races

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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam

Florida's largest police union endorsed Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican Adam Putnam in their primary races for governor today. 

"The men and women of law enforcement and corrections are proud supporters of Commissioner Adam Putnam for Florida Governor," Florida Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera said in a press release. "His trust and confidence in law enforcement throughout his distinguished career is unparalleled.  He is a true champion of public service who understands the sacrifices.  We are grateful for his support and proud to endorse Adam Putnam for Governor."

Rivera called Graham "a true champion for the brave men and women of law enforcement and corrections.”

“She understands our service, along with our sacrifices and we are confident in her ability to unite the citizens of Florida," he said. "We are very proud to endorse our friend Gwen Graham for Governor."

Graham's husband, Steve Hurm, was a police officer in the 1970s and 80s and is now the director of Florida States University's Policing Research & Policy Institute.

Rivera has been known for his often outrageous comments in defense of cops accused of wrongdoing. But as the leader of the state's largest police union, representing more than 28,000 officers around the state, his endorsement is a powerful one.

Rivera today also endorsed Republican Ashley Moody and Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw in their primary races for attorney general.

April 25, 2018

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen rank among the most bipartisan members of Congress

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@alextdaugherty

When French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of climate change during a joint address to Congress on Wednesday, three Republicans stood up and joined Democrats to applaud him. 

The trio, Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, along with Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, also happen to be the three most bipartisan House Republicans, according to new rankings complied by Georgetown University. 

Ros-Lehtinen, who has signed on to the DREAM Act, was ranked as the most bipartisan House Republican while Curbelo, who introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, ranked third out of 236 House Republicans. The rankings are based on the number of bills introduced in 2017 by an individual lawmaker that receive support from lawmakers of the opposing party and by signing onto bills introduced by a lawmaker from the other party. 

"The Index rewards those who prioritize governance over posturing and aims to encourage members of Congress to seek areas of consensus as opposed to simply using legislation to delineate differences," Georgetown University's Lugar Center says on its website. The center uses metrics to award more weight to bills that attract substantial bipartisan support, and does not include ceremonial bills like naming post offices that typically receive support from both parties. 

Curbelo is up for reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that is the most Democratic-leaning in the country currently represented by a Republican running for reelection, and is campaigning in part on a record of working with Democrats on certain issues like climate change. He's distanced himself from President Donald Trump, who lost his district by 16 percentage points, on a number of issues, though he did accompany the president on a recent visit to Key West and helped write the GOP tax bill that became law late last year. 

Ros-Lehtinen, a frequent critic of Trump, is retiring this year. Democrats are favored to flip her seat in November. 

Both Curbelo's and Ros-Lehtinen's rankings from 2017 were up compared to rankings issued after the 114th Congress. Ros-Lehtinen ranked fifth among House Republicans while Curbelo ranked 7th. Former Florida Rep. Gwen Graham, now running for governor in a contested Democratic primary, also ranked among the top 10 most bipartisan lawmakers before leaving Congress. 

In the Senate, Republican Marco Rubio ranks 10th among 100 senators while Democrat Bill Nelson ranks 36th. 

Here's the bipartisan rankings for Miami-Dade's congressional delegation: 

-Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehinen (R) 2nd out of 435 members 

-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) 4th

-Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D) 160th 

-Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) 225th 

-Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) 412th 

April 16, 2018

Philip Levine, Gwen Graham say Trump should be impeached if he fires Mueller (Updated)

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@alextdaugherty

Florida governor hopeful and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine joined the Democratic pile-on of Donald Trump on Monday, calling for the president's impeachment if he fires special counsel Robert Mueller

"As Donald Trump heads to Miami today, we need to send a clear message that his efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation from continuing will be met with full force from Floridians," Levine advisor Christian Ulvert said in a fundraising email. "The GOP-controlled Congress likely won't do it and we need Democratic Governors in states like Florida to stand up to the D.C. insiders." 

Levine's stance on potential impeachment for Trump puts him between the two other Democrats running in the primary. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum called for Trump's immediate impeachment last year while former Rep. Gwen Graham called Trump a bully in a digital ad released earlier this month, though she stopped short of calling for impeachment at the time. 

Calling for Trump's impeachment could energize the base in contested Democratic primaries around the country, though an attempt to impeach Trump late last year garnered just 58 votes in the 435 member House of Representatives. 

UPDATE 4:50pm: Graham also said Trump should be impeached if he fires Mueller. 

"The House should start impeachment proceedings within 60 seconds of Trump firing Mueller," Graham said in an email.

November 09, 2017

Levine touts fundraising in month before entering Florida governor's race

@PatriciaMazzei

Philip Levine, the newest entrant into Florida's Democratic race for governor, collected more than $1 million for his political committee in October, according to his campaign.

Levine, a multi-millionaire who formally launched his candidacy last week, raised a little less than $900,000 and donated a little more than $100,000 to his All About Florida committee, his campaign said Thursday, touting his total haul so far: about $5.8 million. 

None of the candidates' monthly financial reports, either for their campaign or committee accounts, have yet to be posted by to the Florida Division of Elections' website, because they're not due until Monday. Levine didn't have a campaign account yet because he wasn't officially in the race.

"In the year ahead -- as more Floridians learn about Philip and his progressive vision for our state -- we believe voters will continue to provide us with the necessary resources to take our message to every corner of the state, from the Panhandle down to the Keys," Christian Ulvert, a Levine senior adviser, said in a statement.

The only other Democratic candidate who has announced his October fundraising, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, said Tuesday that he drew about $80,000. Gillum brought in a new finance director last month after losing his campaign manager and deputy campaign manager. Gillum's fundraising languished over the summer after an FBI investigation into City Hall became public.

"With under one year until Election Day 2018, Mayor Gillum and our entire team around the state are thrilled about our grassroots fundraising momentum," Gillum's campaign said in a statement. "Everyday Floridians are giving us the resources we need to communicate with our voters through the primary and general election next fall, and we're excited for the road ahead."

Gillum, who has said he's not the target of the investigation, took in a single contribution in October, for $2,500, to his Forward Florida committee, according to its website.

Last month, former Tallahassee Rep. Gwen Graham brought in more than $180,000 for her campaign and about $165,000 for her committee, Our Florida, her campaign said Thursday, bringing her total raised thus far to more than $4 million.

"From Pensacola to Key West, Floridians are fed up with Trump-style politics and they are engaged like never before," Graham said in a statement that added she has received contributions from more than 10,000 individuals, a "milestone." "Our campaign is building a coalition of Floridians from every part of this state and every community. That's how we won in 2014 and that's how we're going to turn Florida blue in 2018."

Orlando entrepreneur Chris King's campaign said it raised nearly $152,000 in October. His committee, Rise and Lead, Florida, raked in about $55,000 during the month, for a total of about $2.7 million since launching the campaign. The committee has about $1.6 million cash on hand, the campaign said.

This post has been updated to include Graham's and King's campaign fundraising.